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The Art of the Auction

Auction Strategy - 2021

By Doug Orth | 8/28/21 |

Auction drafting is my favorite way to build a fantasy football team. While the general idea of this format is to allow every owner an equal opportunity to acquire players, it combines the ability to value a player’s potential contribution with managing a budget, all while testing a drafter’s patience. Perhaps most importantly, I feel it tests the conviction a fantasy owner has in certain players more than a snake draft ever will. Furthermore, it rewards the prepared and punishes the unprepared. In snake drafts, it is obvious to anyone using a reliable and well-organized draft board when a player is slipping. In auctions, owners need to be keenly aware of what players are left and balance that against their remaining funds. Owners must decide what players they like the most and to what degree they are willing to go to secure their services, which is perhaps the best part of auctions - along with the aforementioned fact that every owner has an equal opportunity to land each player.

This coming season will mark the 13th year I have participated in The Huddle Expert Auction League. Over the first 12 seasons, FFToday made the six-team playoff 11 times and advanced to the championship game on seven occasions, winning it all three times. Suffice it to say my approach has proven to be effective.

This year’s draft was held on August 19, so keep that date in mind as you review the prices below (both the price each player went for and the value at which I set for him), especially as it relates to James Robinson, Travis Etienne, Sony Michel and Darrell Henderson. This draft took place about four days before Etienne got hurt and about a week before the Rams traded for Michel.

General Auction Considerations/Strategies

I decided this year that it would be wise to share some insight into what I believe has contributed to my success in auction formats. There are obviously more than seven auction "rules" to observe, but this should be a helpful list for most managers.

1. Use auction values customized to your league's settings.

This may seem like a "duh" statement, but you would be surprised how many fantasy owners don't do this. One size does not fit all. For the veteran fantasy owner who wants to create their own (which I recommend), this objective can be achieved by studying the values of players in your league over the last year or two - especially for those at the top of each position. When you can be confident in the price ceiling for Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey, Davante Adams and Travis Kelce, it makes valuing every other player below them much easier. I set my prices for players at what I believe should be their ceiling, so I don't go over my valuation on a player unless there is a specific objective on trying to accomplish at that particular moment.

2. Find a way to easily identify "your guys."

Time is of the essence in most auctions, so fantasy managers should have a quick and easy way to identify a player they are targeting as they scroll up and down their lists. (I bolded and underlined the players' names in hours and days leading up to this draft.) One of the best features of an auction is that every fantasy manager has the same opportunity to land each player - at least at the beginning of the draft. If you want a certain player enough, odds are you will probably get him.

3. Identify the players you want as the core of your team.

This is slightly different from the preceding paragraph in that we are talking about a group of two or three foundation pieces as opposed to a group of 30-40 players you would like to have on the team.

4. Setting positional budgets is overrated.

While I can see how it might be helpful for the new auction player, I have never set a pre-draft budget for any auction. Much like snake drafting, fantasy owners should do whatever they can to avoid backing themselves into a corner or creating more obstacles for themselves. Some snake drafts dictate that we focus on building around receivers, others around running backs and still others give us a healthy mix. A similar thing can happen in auctions. What if your budget at running back is 40 percent and half of the other owners' budgets are 45-50 percent? Chances are your running back-centric focus will need to become receiver-focused, making it one more thing you need to adjust to on the fly. It makes much more sense to figure out before the draft how you want to build around an Adams or a Kelce or who you deem is an acceptable low-end RB1 if the initial RB-centric plan does not work.

5. Nominate with a purpose.

Nominating early in an auction draft should be about either getting your foundation pieces or setting the expectation for a tier. In other words, if I nominate DK Metcalf and believe he is an elite WR1, it should be because I want him or want to know if I can trust my valuations for the rest of that tier. After the first few rounds, I tend to nominate "buzzy" players with an eye on trying to get my fellow owners to empty their pockets a bit earlier than they would like.

6. Monitor the roster needs and (especially) the budgets of the other managers. Use "the hammer" when you have it.

The first sentence should be self-explanatory. It really comes into play in the middle part of your draft and definitely toward the end of it. The second sentence is one of the best parts of an auction: a player you desire is available and you have the most money (and/or the highest max bid) remaining. For example, Tee Higgins has somehow escaped nomination through 150 picks and no one else in the room can bid more than $10. As long as you trust yourself not to pursue any other "eye candy," feel free to watch other owners continue to pass him by - making him an even better value. If that doesn't sound like fun (it should), then that is the moment you want to drop "the hammer" on the rest of the room.

7. For the love of all that is good, do not leave money on the table in an auction!

There is a reason this piece of advice is mentioned in virtually every auction draft piece. There is absolutely no reason not to spend every dollar you have in an auction. One of the most egregious examples I have witnessed was in a high-stakes auction last year where an owner left $17 on the table. Using this draft as an example, $17 would buy any of the following: all but two of the quarterbacks, Damien Harris, Amari Cooper/Adam Thielen or all but three of the tight ends. You probably cannot afford to bypass that kind of talent.


The dream scenario entering this particular auction was securing McCaffrey and Kelce. Short of that, I wanted Kelce and Calvin Ridley to complement two clear starters at running back. I was determined not to overspend at quarterback (I was focused on Ryan Tannehill as someone I expected to get around $5). Doing all this should allow me to build a rock-solid receiving corps, especially considering how deep the position is.

The Draft

Bolded players are ones I would encourage auction drafters to target in their auction drafts, as I did in mine. The key is picking players to target from several different tiers and expected cost valuations.

Below you will find the actual prices that secured a player’s services (Act $) and the price I valued them at before the draft (My $). A dash in the first column means a player was not nominated. The green highlight represents winning bids for FF Today. Finally, I will follow each position group with some of my thoughts.

All values are based on a $200 cap and players are organized by “My $”. All of the players that were nominated are included. I removed several players that are unlikely to go in auctions in 12-team leagues with 18-man rosters or for other common-sense reasons.

Required starters: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 Flex, 1 K and 1 Defense/Special Teams unit.

Actual $ My $ Player Tm Age
20 21 Patrick Mahomes KC 25
19 20 Josh Allen BUF 25
15 20 Kyler Murray ARI 24
13 18 Lamar Jackson BAL 24
12 15 Dak Prescott DAL 28
8 14 Aaron Rodgers GB 37
5 12 Ryan Tannehill TEN 33
7 12 Russell Wilson SEA 32
5 11 Tom Brady TB 44
4 8 Jalen Hurts PHI 23
4 10 Justin Herbert LAC 23
4 10 Matthew Stafford LAR 33
1 7 Joe Burrow CIN 24
1 6 Trevor Lawrence JAC 21
2 5 Trey Lance SF 21
3 5 Justin Fields CHI 22
- 2 Carson Wentz IND 28
2 2 Matt Ryan ATL 36
- 2 Sam Darnold CAR 24
1 1 Tua Tagovailoa MIA 23
2 1 Kirk Cousins MIN 33
- 1 Daniel Jones NYG 24
1 1 Baker Mayfield CLE 26
- 1 Ryan Fitzpatrick WAS 38
1 1 Derek Carr LV 30
- 1 Zach Wilson NYJ 22
- 1 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 39
- 1 Taysom Hill NO 31
- 1 Jameis Winston NO 27
1 1 Deshaun Watson HOU 25

Observations: I found it interesting that Mahomes ($20) was the only quarterback to be nominated through the first three rounds. Then, five of the next six nominees for quarterbacks: Allen ($19), Jackson ($13), Prescott ($12), Murray ($15) and Brady ($5). It is clear the allure of the dual-threat has captured the imagination of this league, as it is difficult to explain how Allen and Mahomes attracted bids nearly four times as high as the price Brady went for and more than twice as much as Rodgers ($8).

Strategy: Generally speaking - and especially in leagues that award four points per passing touchdown - I want my starting quarterback to be a capable run threat. This means I want a floor of at least 200-300 rushing yards and a few scores on the ground, especially in a league such as this one in which passing TDs are worth four points. There are 14 quarterbacks I am comfortable starting right now and perhaps four more (Lance, Fields, Tagovailoa and Ryan) who could easily join them. In short, it's a deep position. Auction league owners would do well to remember that; there's not much of a reason to spend more than $10 at the position, if only because it will almost certainly wind up costing you a potential starter at another position later in the draft.

For example, would you rather have Murray and a $1 player or Brady and Tyler Boyd ($11)? Jackson and a $1 player or Herbert and James Robinson ($12). Pounce on Allen or Mahomes if they go incredibly cheap. Otherwise, play the matchup game. I did not intend to grab a third quarterback (Burrow) until I saw he was still available nearly 200 nominations into the draft. He possesses significantly more upside than anyone else that was left. I would rather be in a position where I have to figure out how to manage Brady-Herbert-Burrow than the alternative. (More on this later.)

Total spent at QB: $10

 Running Backs
Actual $ My $ Player Tm Age
60 58 Christian McCaffrey CAR 25
49 50 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 26
43 48 Derrick Henry TEN 27
50 48 Nick Chubb CLE 25
48 48 Aaron Jones GB 26
42 48 Austin Ekeler LAC 26
50 48 Dalvin Cook MIN 26
54 48 Alvin Kamara NO 26
41 44 Jonathan Taylor IND 22
40 43 Saquon Barkley NYG 24
39 44 Najee Harris PIT 23
48 44 Antonio Gibson WAS 23
45 42 Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC 22
34 40 Joe Mixon CIN 25
34 34 Chris Carson SEA 26
31 33 David Montgomery CHI 24
32 32 J.K. Dobbins BAL 22
22 28 D'Andre Swift DET 22
16 24 Travis Etienne JAC 22
14 23 Myles Gaskin MIA 24
23 21 Josh Jacobs LV 23
21 21 Darrell Henderson * LAR 24
11 20 Chase Edmonds ARI 25
18 19 Miles Sanders PHI 24
30 18 Mike Davis ATL 28
18 18 Kareem Hunt CLE 26
11 17 Michael Carter NYJ 22
12 17 James Robinson ** JAC 23
24 16 Javonte Williams DEN 21
16 14 Trey Sermon SF 22
17 14 Damien Harris NE 24
15 12 Raheem Mostert SF 29
5 8 Giovani Bernard TB 29
8 10 Kenyan Drake LV 27
10 10 Melvin Gordon DEN 28
7 9 James Conner ARI 26
6 9 Gus Edwards BAL 26
7 9 Zack Moss BUF 23
12 9 Ronald Jones TB 24
9 8 Jamaal Williams DET 26
2 8 James White NE 29
5 8 Devin Singletary BUF 23
3 7 Nyheim Hines IND 24
4 7 AJ Dillon GB 23
4 6 JD McKissic WAS 28
1 4 Latavius Murray NO 31
3 4 David Johnson HOU 29
1 3 Tarik Cohen CHI 26
1 3 Tony Pollard DAL 24
2 2 Javian Hawkins FA 21
- 2 Darrynton Evans TEN 23
1 2 Boston Scott PHI 26
2 3 Leonard Fournette TB 26
1 2 Xavier Jones LAR 23
6 2 Phillip Lindsay HOU 27
- 2 Qadree Ollison ATL 24
1 2 Devontae Booker NYG 29
- 1 Sony Michel *** LAR 26
1 1 Alexander Mattison MIN 23
4 1 Chuba Hubbard CAR 22
- 1 Larry Rountree III LAC 22
1 1 Darrel Williams KC 26
5 1 Rashaad Penny SEA 25
1 1 Marlon Mack IND 25
1 1 Tevin Coleman NYJ 28
1 1 Salvon Ahmed MIA 22
- 1 Joshua Kelley LAC 23
2 1 Rhamondre Stevenson **** NE 23
- 1 Jake Funk LAR 23
1 1 Malcolm Brown MIA 28

* - Would bid about $15 for Henderson now.
** - Would bid about $32 for Robinson now.
*** - Would bid about $10 for Robinson now.
**** - Would bid about $5 for Stevenson now.

Observations: There was a time in this league where no running back drew a $50 bid. There was not much bargain shopping in 2021, however. Three backs drew bids of at least $50 and seven of at least $48, including a few (Chubb, Jones and Gibson) I believed could fall into my preferred low-to-mid 40s price range. (For the sake of comparison, only nine running backs topped $40 bids in the Blanda Division of the King's Classic - a league that features 14 teams and three flex spots but starts 10 players like this league - five days earlier.) Even Edwards-Helaire ($45), who can typically be had in the late second round of snake drafts, attracted a bid usually only afforded to first-round picks. There was also an inexplicable $30 nomination for Davis - something I can only imagine was born out of frustration from missing out on previous targets - after only about 25 nominations had been made.

One of the best parts of auction drafting is looking back and seeing how a player usually available in the fifth or sixth round like Javonte Williams ($24) went for more than someone like Swift ($22), who is usually off the board in the middle of the third. There is a lesson to be learned here, however. Bidding wars are almost inevitable in auctions because desperation sets in once managers realize they could miss out on the last player in a tier. That's not to say that Williams won't prove to be worth his cost, but he is much more likely to go around the price I have set for him in most auctions ($16) and what he went for the King's Classic ($17) than the number he went for in this auction.

For the second straight year in this league, one owner double-dipped in the elite running back pool and came away with McCaffrey ($60) and Barkley ($40). (To make matters worse, he also double-dipped in the elite wide receiver pool by snagging Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill for $43 apiece.) Anyone capable of doing some quick math knows that means he spent $186 (of his $200) on four players, leaving him with 14 players for $1 apiece to round out his roster. The upside of such an approach is obvious. The downside is as well. (Last year, the same owner went McCaffrey-Barkley-CEH. It did not end well for him, especially after I outbid everyone for Mike Davis on waivers.)

Strategy: As much as we all love to have at least one good one, running backs were overvalued in this draft. A few years ago, I was a strong proponent of doing whatever it took to get my top-ranked running back. At the time, it was cost-efficient to do so. The sub-$50 cost also allowed me to build a balanced lineup. As the league has adjusted their stance on spending at least 25 percent of their cap for one player, I have also had to adjust my stance on selling out for the likes of McCaffrey. Positional advantages come in different shapes and sizes, so while McCaffrey is the most obvious - and arguably the most fun - one to have, he is priced to the point where he almost has to produce 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns to be worth his cost. Can he do it? Obviously. Is it worth it? That is debatable. McCaffrey is certainly worth $50 and then some, but he's the only one. Elliott and Chubb (and maybe even Gibson) could have huge seasons, but the opportunity cost is just too great in a league where most of the owners know what they are doing. When one player eats up between 25-30 percent of your cap, your fortunes pretty much ride on him staying healthy even though he plays the fantasy position most likely to get hurt.

Thankfully, Ekeler ($42) and his workload concerns have kept his price intact. I'm not exactly of the belief he is the West Coast version of Kamara now that longtime Saints assistant Joe Lombardi is calling the shots on offense for the Chargers, but Ekeler has legitimate 100-catch upside. I spent more than I wanted to on Carson ($34), but it was an eventuality I prepared for 30-45 minutes earlier when I nominated Montgomery ($31) and saw Dobbins ($32) come up for bid right before Carson. The ability to keep your eye on the prize and maintain your discipline - sitting on your money for a while if necessary - is critical in an auction.

At first blush, it may seem ludicrous I would be willing to trust Bernard ($5) as my RB3. To each their own. The mere fact Tom Brady requested (and trusts) him suggests he has the same kind of upside James White did when they were both playing for the Patriots. The difference between White then and Bernard now is that the Bucs boast a significantly better offense now than New England did in Brady's final years in Foxboro. White ($2) is a player I have consistently passed on this summer for the simple fact that I do not have a good idea when I would be able to play him. He made sense here, however, because he was cheap and I can afford to be patient with him until Mac Jones wins the starting job. Xavier Jones ($1) was well worth the investment before the Michel trade. He will likely be my first cut now, perhaps for Tony Jones or Michel.

Total spent at RB: $84

 Wide Receivers
Actual $ My $ Player Tm Age
43 45 Davante Adams GB 28
43 44 Tyreek Hill KC 27
40 42 Calvin Ridley ATL 26
37 40 DeAndre Hopkins ARI 29
38 38 Stefon Diggs BUF 27
34 34 D.K. Metcalf SEA 23
37 33 A.J. Brown TEN 24
27 33 Allen Robinson CHI 27
35 32 Justin Jefferson MIN 22
35 30 Terry McLaurin WAS 25
31 30 Keenan Allen LAC 29
32 28 CeeDee Lamb DAL 22
20 29 Robert Woods LAR 29
24 28 Mike Evans TB 28
17 27 Amari Cooper DAL 27
27 27 Cooper Kupp LAR 28
21 24 Julio Jones TEN 32
20 24 Chris Godwin TB 25
24 24 Tyler Lockett SEA 28
14 23 Tee Higgins CIN 22
17 23 Adam Thielen MIN 31
18 22 Ja'Marr Chase CIN 33
19 22 D.J. Moore CAR 24
24 22 Diontae Johnson PIT 25
7 22 Chase Claypool PIT 23
9 21 Courtland Sutton DEN 25
15 21 Brandon Aiyuk SF 23
11 20 Tyler Boyd CIN 26
16 19 Jerry Jeudy DEN 22
7 19 JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT 24
7 18 Robby Anderson CAR 28
15 17 Odell Beckham Jr. CLE 28
4 17 D.J. Chark JAC 24
9 15 Antonio Brown TB 33
5 14 Michael Gallup DAL 25
3 14 Darnell Mooney CHI 23
5 14 Mike Williams LAC 26
13 13 Kenny Golladay NYG 27
10 12 Deebo Samuel SF 25
8 12 Michael Thomas NO 28
4 12 Marvin Jones JAC 31
10 11 Jarvis Landry CLE 28
7 11 Curtis Samuel WAS 25
4 10 Elijah Moore NYJ 26
6 10 Laviska Shenault JAC 22
4 8 DeVonta Smith PHI 22
4 4 Corey Davis NYJ 28
6 8 Will Fuller MIA 27
2 7 Terrace Marshall Jr. CAR 21
1 7 Cole Beasley BUF 32
10 7 Jaylen Waddle MIA 22
2 7 Bryan Edwards LV 22
11 7 Brandin Cooks HOU 27
1 6 Michael Pittman IND 23
1 6 Rondale Moore ARI 21
7 5 Russell Gage ATL 25
1 5 Parris Campbell IND 24
- 4 Rashod Bateman BAL 21
4 4 DeVante Parker MIA 28
1 3 T.Y. Hilton IND 31
3 3 Marquez Callaway NO 23
1 3 Nelson Agholor NE 28
8 2 Jakobi Meyers NE 24
1 2 Randall Cobb GB 31
2 2 A.J. Green ARI 33
4 2 Henry Ruggs III LV 22
3 2 Marquise Brown BAL 24
1 2 Sterling Shepard NYG 28
2 2 Gabriel Davis BUF 22
1 2 Mecole Hardman KC 23
7 1 Jalen Reagor PHI 22
- 1 Kadarius Toney NYG 22
1 1 Marquez Valdes-Scantling GB 26
- 1 Van Jefferson LAR 25
- 1 D'Wayne Eskridge SEA 24
2 1 Breshad Perriman DET 27
1 1 Jamison Crowder NYJ 28
1 1 Christian Kirk ARI 24
- 1 Darius Slayton NYG 24
3 1 Emmanuel Sanders BUF 34
2 1 Tre'Quan Smith NO 25
3 1 Amon-Ra St. Brown DET 21
3 1 Tyrell Williams DET 29
1 1 Keelan Cole NYJ 28
1 1 James Washington PIT 25
3 1 Dyami Brown WAS 21

Observations: The going rate for the elite receivers - and most leagues using this setup - is in the low-to-mid 40s. It has been that way in this league for as long as I can remember. Unless it is somewhat obvious a receiver has a clear path to the kind of 160-plus targets (Adams last year, for example), it is probably best for most fantasy managers to focus on getting one of the $30-plus receivers as a WR1 and build a draft plan around that. Unsurprisingly, 11 wideouts went for at least $30. However, as you can tell, it does not always take $30 to land a top receiver. Robinson ($27) and Woods ($20) were especially good bargains that typically go closer to my valuations in most auctions. Higgins ($14) somehow did not come up for nomination for more than 2 1/2 hours and his bargain bin price reflects that.

The overspending at running back trickled down to receiver. While it is inevitable that some wideouts who should command double-digit bids will go for less than $10, it is not overly difficult to identify 10 receivers above who probably should have drawn bids of at least that much in this draft. Every dollar in an auction matters. When a $12 player goes for $7, that fantasy manager has increased his/her margin for error at the very least. In the best-case scenario, he/she should be able to apply that savings to a player that would have otherwise been outside of his/her price range.

We may have reached the point where there are more receivers that are worthy of being on fantasy rosters in 12-team leagues than there are spots to put them. A whopping 82 receivers came up for nomination in this draft and I could argue that at least four or five more deserved the honor. Rashod Bateman is the most obvious of the bunch and should get scooped up when the first waiver wire period hits, if for no other reason than he can be stashed on IR. (I will put in a bid on him with exactly that in mind.) Like most of his teammates this year, Nico Collins will have a low floor because of the dreadful offense to which he is attached, but his size/speed combination makes him an intriguing upside flyer. Josh Palmer is a Mike Williams injury away from being a very serviceable WR4 with WR3 upside. Dee Eskridge and Van Jefferson are in offenses that should be able to support three receivers more often than not.

Strategy: I hate to ruin the surprise of whom I landed at tight end, but my winning bid on Kelce had a profound effect on what I wanted to do at receiver. A Kelce-Ridley pairing would have been a dream scenario that would have probably cost me the ability to get Carson, so that was a no-go. There are at least 40 receivers worth starting in my estimation, so getting at least three I liked was not a huge concern. The beauty of landing Kelce is that he produces like an elite WR1 at another position, which in turn bumps what I need each of my receivers to do down a notch and gives my third wideout a low bar to reach in weekly matchups (your opponent's tight end, more often than not).

The beauty of this draft was that I didn't need to compromise at receiver. Getting three of my top 26 options at the position - and getting them all well under my valuation - was a coup. Allen Robinson ($27) continues to be undervalued despite the likelihood he will have the most competent quarterbacking of his career (be it Andy Dalton or Justin Fields). He is at worst a low-end WR1 with double-digit touchdown upside. For all the talk about CeeDee Lamb ($32) taking over as the alpha in Dallas, the target difference between Cooper ($17) and Lamb in Dak Prescott's four healthy games last year was shocking (51-29 in Cooper's favor). Of course, no one should expect a repeat of that, but it does lend itself to the likelihood that Cooper and Lamb will be equal partners as opposed to the former serving as the latter's complement. There is no way to justify a $15 gap between the two. Chase ($18) is one of the best receiver prospects to enter the league in the last few years. It seems as though his stock was suffering from the reports that he couldn't separate early in camp and a case of the drops. (Well, yeah. He didn't play football last year. Can we give the kid a few practices/days/weeks to re-acclimate himself to playing football again and doing so at the highest level?)

It pained me to see Claypool go for $7 right after I thought I got a steal in Mike Williams for $5, but let's not kid ourselves: both are legitimate candidates for 1,000 yards and/or 10 touchdowns. Bryan Edwards ($2) has been a bit of the right side of the hype machine this summer. My expectations for him are in the WR4 neighborhood, but there seems to be no question he will fall right behind Darren Waller in terms of the pecking order in the Las Vegas passing game. His tape at South Carolina was good enough to believe he will live up to the hype in 2021 after a bit of an unlucky and injury-filled rookie season. I will continue to give the benefit of doubt to Green ($2). While no one is expecting Prime A.J. in Arizona at age 33, there is at least a small possibility his last two years with the Bengals were more a result of being ready to move on from Cincinnati disguised as an aging receiver beginning to break down. Rumor has it (and by rumor, I mean a credible source who knows how NFL training staffs operate) the Bengals may have the most incompetent medical team in the league. I nominated Hardman for the sole purpose of getting some owners to bite on his hype and clear some money out of the room. No one bit. He is someone I look forward to watching.

Total spent at WR: $67

 Tight Ends
Actual $ My $ Player Tm Age
30 30 Travis Kelce KC 31
24 27 Darren Waller LV 28
18 24 George Kittle SF 27
11 16 Mark Andrews BAL 25
14 16 Kyle Pitts ATL 20
11 15 T.J. Hockenson DET 24
5 9 Noah Fant DEN 23
7 9 Robert Tonyan GB 27
2 9 Dallas Goedert PHI 27
1 7 Jonnu Smith NE 26
4 5 Logan Thomas WAS 30
1 5 Mike Gesicki MIA 25
1 4 Irv Smith MIN 23
- 3 Gerald Everett SEA 27
1 3 Evan Engram NYG 26
2 3 Tyler Higbee LAR 28
1 2 Blake Jarwin DAL 27
1 2 Anthony Firkser TEN 26
1 2 Hunter Henry NE 26
2 2 Jared Cook LAC 34
1 1 Austin Hooper CLE 26
- 1 Cole Kmet CHI 22
1 1 Rob Gronkowski TB 32
1 1 Eric Ebron PIT 28
2 1 Adam Trautman NO 24
- 1 Jacob Harris LAR 24
1 1 Zach Ertz PHI 30

Total spent at TE: $30

Observations: Andrews and Hockenson going for $11 apiece was painful to watch. Both players are incredible values at that price point. It might be worth considering nominating one of them early in drafts just to see if you can get a similar bargain. The former is a legit threat for 10 touchdowns and the other is a decent bet for 80 catches, so getting either one for $11 is a steal. As a whole, this position played out about the way most should expect in their 12-team auctions otherwise: the top six brought double-digit bids while everyone else was $7 or cheaper.

Probably the biggest shocker to me at this position was two of the tight ends that went undrafted. Gerald Everett avoiding nomination was a complete oversight by the league in my opinion. It would not surprise me if he is this year's version of Tonyan - a high-efficiency tight end who scores a healthy number of touchdowns. Cole Kmet is a player that has been bypassed in several of my recent experts' league drafts. While I have him at TE22 in my rankings, he is about an extra touchdown in his projection away from moving to TE16. I would be willing to bet Everett and Kmet will be regular starters in this league at some point early in the season.

Strategy: Dual-threat quarterbacks and McCaffrey are prime examples of fantasy cheat codes. A less obvious cheat code is Kelce ($30), who would have the WR4 last year and WR10 in 2019 if he was grouped in with the receivers. The fact he can usually be acquired around the $30 mark remains one of the fantasy market's biggest bargains. Three more advantages of getting Kelce: his durability, his weekly consistency and the added roster spot (or the lack of the need to stream the position).

There is a chance I am getting on the Kelce train one year too late, as my research earlier this summer concluded age 32 is about the time fantasy managers should expect even the most elite tight ends to fade. (Kelce will turn 32 in October.) However, there are multiple reasons why Kelce might be exempt from such a conclusion to his 2021 season. First of all, there is very little Patrick Mahomes cannot do. He trusts Kelce in just about every situation against any opponent. Kelce's route-running ability remains the best part of his game and makes him a tough matchup for cornerbacks - much less against linebackers and safeties. Neither of those factors seems likely to change much this year. Outside of ponying up for Kelce, I have no problem with anyone who wants to save a few bucks and grab Waller ($24) instead. After that, I would recommend dabbling in the Andrews/Hockenson tier or setting my sights on Tonyan ($7). The industry is so convinced he is due for regression that it has completely ruled out the possibility he will be more involved in 2021 as a result of last year's efficiency.

Actual $ My $ Player Tm
2 1 Justin Tucker BAL
2 1 Harrison Butker KC
1 1 Greg Zuerlein DAL
1 1 Matt Prater ARI
1 1 Ryan Succop TB
1 1 Robbie Gould SF
1 1 Tyler Bass BUF
- 1 Matt Gay LAR
1 1 Jason Sanders MIA
- 1 Jason Myers SEA
1 1 Rodrigo Blankenship IND
1 1 Daniel Carlson LV
1 1 Younghoe Koo ATL
1 1 Mason Crosby GB

Observations/strategy: Year after year, I look for the same qualities in a kicker. I want someone with a strong leg in a good offense. Additionally, I often target kickers who play on teams with good or great defenses since coaches are more apt to settle for field goals when they are confident in their defense. Short of that, I look for a kicker on a team that I believe will have a good offense but will bog down in the red zone because it lacks a strong running attack. Bass ($1) was about the most consistent kicker in fantasy football last season. Very little about his situation has changed, including the likelihood that Buffalo will need to kick its fair share of field goals because the Bills don't appear ready to consistently trust anyone outside of Josh Allen near the goal line.

Total spent at K: $1

 Defense / ST
Actual $ My $ Team
3 2 Buccaneers
3 2 Broncos
3 2 Football Team
1 1 Ravens
1 1 Browns
1 1 49ers
2 1 Rams
- 1 Vikings
1 1 Colts
- 1 Packers
2 1 Patriots
1 1 Chargers
1 1 Steelers
- 1 Dolphins
- 1 Panthers
- 1 Cardinals
1 1 Seahawks
1 1 Bills

Observations/strategy: Conventional wisdom says no one should spend more than a buck on defense. Conventional wisdom does not play in the leagues I do, I guess. In the majority of my high-stakes leagues, somewhere between four and six teams carry two defenses and most of the others stream. Why continually burn FAAB or waste waiver priority at a position just because it is deemed overly volatile? I'd rather spend a buck or two more in August and feel good about that team's ability to get at least three sacks and force a turnover just about every week. Fantasy football is about eliminating as many question marks from your lineup each week as possible, not hoping some middling defense gets lucky in what is perceived to be a soft matchup. You might think you have the market cornered by getting whatever defense is going up against Houston or Detroit this year, but I would be willing to bet at least 3-4 other managers are thinking the same thing. Washington ($3) and Tampa Bay ($3) are ridiculously loaded on defense and should push for 50 sacks this season. In my estimation, spending the next dollar or two in August is better than trying to figure out which low-end DST I want to trust in a given week.

Total spent at D/ST: $3


The FFToday team

QB: Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow*

RB: Austin Ekeler, Chris Carson, Giovani Bernard, James White, Xavier Jones

WR: Allen Robinson, Amari Cooper, Ja'Marr Chase, Mike Williams, Bryan Edwards, A.J. Green, Mecole Hardman

TE: Travis Kelce

K: Tyler Bass

D/ST: Washington Football Team

* Since traded for AJ Dillon

I was stunned that I ended up with three quarterbacks, much less three I have ranked inside my top 13. My good fortune was rewarded a few days later when I was able to acquire Dillon in exchange for Burrow. The quality of my running back depth is probably still my biggest question mark, but Dillon and Bernard should end up being solid flex plays on occasion. Wide receiver is rarely a strength of my team in this league, but this is one of my better units in my 13 years in the league. Tight end is obviously a strength, and I believe I have top-five options at kicker and defense.

Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM's "Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

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